For Immediate Release - November 15, 2010

Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission Unveils State-Of-The-Art Vehicle to Assist People with Disabilities

American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) funds van equipped with assistive technology

BOSTON - The Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC) today unveiled a state-of-the-art motor vehicle equipped with adaptive evaluation and training devices that will help promote independence and employment for people with disabilities. The van was purchased with funding from the federal American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) and modified with assistive technology.

The MRC's Driver Evaluation and Training Program will use the van to determine the type of adaptive driving equipment needed by individuals with significant disabilities so that they can operate a vehicle safely. Individuals evaluated using technology in the new MRC van will also receive training on how to operate the vehicle and its adaptive equipment and technology.

This van is the Commonwealth's first suitably modified vehicle to conduct high-tech driver evaluations and training. Previously, Massachusetts consumers had to travel out of state for driving evaluations or purchase a vehicle independently and wait for it to be modified before taking driving lessons. The state's new vehicle will help consumers who need adaptive equipment determine their unique needs in order to live and work as independently as possible.

"This state-of-the-art vehicle exemplifies how federal stimulus funding supports resources and investments that have a direct impact on individuals with disabilities in the Commonwealth," said Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services for Disability Policies and Programs Dr. Jean McGuire. "Using this equipment, we can assist more individuals so they're able to drive safely and independently."

"This is a wonderful example of how technology has evolved to assist people with disabilities," said MRC Commissioner Charles Carr. "This vehicle will help our consumers try different types of technology needed to drive before purchases are made. We hope to see more people with significant disabilities driving, to enable them to work and increase their community independence."

As part of ARRA's Vocational Rehabilitation Grant to the MRC, the Commission received $155,000 in federal funding for the van. Earlier this year the MRC contracted with the Safety Council of Central Massachusetts to have Ride-Away Corporation modify the van as specified by the MRC's Rehabilitation Technology Department, which supervised the modifications.

"After receiving my learner's permit over a year ago, I have been anxiously waiting for the chance to get my license," said Andrew Ivanov, an MRC client. "I'm overjoyed that there is a vehicle within Massachusetts that can give me the ability to drive and get my license. I would like to thank everyone involved for giving me the opportunity to start driving -- I hope that after I get my license, I will have become a more independent and outgoing member of society."

About the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC)

The Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission assists individuals with disabilities to live and work independently. The MRC is responsible for Vocational Rehabilitation Services, Community Services, and eligibility determination for the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) federal benefits programs for Massachusetts citizens with disabilities. The MRC serves people with all types of disabilities except those who are blind, who are served through the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind. To learn more about MRC, please visit: www.mass.gov/mrc.

# # #